Minimum viable product and User Stories

Once you have your team, it’s time to turn your attention to the product.

You may want to build a site that displays pictures of cats, for example. This is a simple enough brief, but where should you start? This is where the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) comes in.

You want to put your site up as quickly as possible. Every minute your site is not live, you’re losing potential customers. We need to take the concept and boil it down to it’s most basic useful implementation and focus just on that. Once it’s live we can start to see people come through and we can learn what they want while we continue development (which, apart from generating revenue, is the second most important use of customers).

The User Story

So what’s our MVP for the cat picture site? What does our user want and how does that translate to development? This is where we turn the project on it’s head; we no longer have to consider why we are building the product, but rather ask the question “what does the user want to do with it?”.

As a user I want to be able to see pictures of cats so a can feel warm and fuzzy.

This is the basic format for a user story. It has a protagonist, in this case the  user but it could equally be another type of consumer of the site such as an administrator or even occasionally a developer. It also has a goal and a driver behind that goal. The goal could be psychological as in this case, or practical and it always fulfils a need – there’s very little point developing for nice-to-haves.

In order to fulfil our MVP we don’t need any design, we don’t need extra pages, we don’t need any data from the back end. We just need a single Web page that displays cat images.

Once we understand this, we would usually start to further distill this into developable tasks. Because I’d like to dedicate the next blog post to task breakdown, we’ll keep it simple. Our front end developer sets to work and adds cat images to a web page.

It probably looks a little like this:

Cat Site v.1

Sure, it’s not pretty, but now you can release your site to the world, safe in the knowledge that people can look at cats.

Next up: Task breakdown.

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